Hell on Earth
Flash Fiction by Carrie Martin
Now our island is a wasteland of decaying forests, burnt-out vehicles, dust and angry ghosts—and that's just the daytime. You don't want to go out there at night. For the few of us that remain, holed-up in this lonely fire hall, it's only a matter of what will kill us first: starvation, suicide, or them.
The two-way radio goes off in my hand, broadcasting Trent's panicked voice amid the static: "Open the door!"
I've been sitting in one of the fire trucks, waiting for his call, and I drop the radio, fly at the door, unlock and shove it open. The sun is sinking in a blinding glow across the ocean's cloudy horizon. Trent's silhouette runs at me, clothes flapping, unravelling at his head. A brown medicine bottle catches the light in his hand—he must have rummaged through a hundred houses to find it.
Hope stings my eyes with tears. If we can just save Cassie's leg, just one good thing.
But the sun is dropping too fast, the darkness is coming. Dust kicks into wicked columns. Fleshy, spiderweb wings flutter in strobe-like snatches, and the wretched screeching begins.
Trent's made it up the driveway but there's a demon at his back, slowing its giant bony mass mid-flight, preparing to breathe its fiery hell.
I grab the nearest thing and toss an axe, tumbling, high over Trent's head. It cuts into the demon's shoulder with a sickening thump, and the scream that erupts brings me to my knees. Trent cowers, covering his ears, losing the medicine bottle in the process. It rolls down the drive, down, down, into the gutter.
I step outside, but there's a hand on my shoulder, pulling me back. "Kaya," says Nancy, "you can't go out there."
And she's right, it's suicide. "The antibiotics, he dropped them," I say.
Nancy's husband, Wes, darts between us with his hunting rifle and lines up a shot at the squirming demon.
"Run, Trent!" Nancy and I yell together as he scrambles to his feet.
The demon removes the axe in a spray of blood that coats Trent's back, and hurls it at us, its eyes bitter and blood-red, its mouth stretched impossibly wide with twisted, knife-sharp teeth. We jump aside, narrowly missing the axe as it stabs into the doorframe.
Trent's at the bottom step when the demon's clawed feet shoot forward to snag his shirt and drag him upward, swaying left and right. Trent looks at me with his brown eyes, eyes that say "another time, another place, we could have had something good."
Eyes resigned to their fate. Wes can't find a safe shot, can't waste any bullets, and Trent is utterly helpless.
"Lock the door!" says Trent; the last brave gesture he'll ever make, as he's carried away in a blur of veins and wings and wrinkled skin, into the dead forest.
Wes lowers his gun, signifying our defeat. Nancy takes my hand as Trent is torn apart, screaming, screaming, not a thing we can do to save him...followed by a terrible silence.
Then Trent's severed, blood-soaked leg comes scuttling across the driveway.
Stifling rage I yank the axe from the doorframe, and Wes takes care of the door. I'm too angry to cry. We've lost so many people, so many. Doomed to roam the Earth forevermore, seen but unseen and mad with despair.
Only seven of us remain.
Molly and her teenage-son Jack hover on the stairs, and we return to the bunkroom in silence. Cassie's lying in a top bunk, bandaged leg propped on pillows, and she's gotten worse: deathly pale now, her sheets drenched. The sound of her weeping kills me. Tim places a damp cloth on her forehead, strokes her wet hair, and shakes his head at us, his mouth pulled into a grim line behind his grey beard.
Trent died for nothing. Cassie's going to lose her leg. Eleven years old and she's going to lose her f***ing leg.
I'm so sick of this nightmare. What are we holding on for? The pump truck's half empty. We could drive out of here by daylight, but where would we go? Cities, strip malls, gas stations, boats in harbours...they're all toast.
And so are we now the demons know we're here.
I've got to finish what Trent began, buy Cassie some time. Fighting is all we have left.
I pull everyone into the hallway and explain my plan. We argue back and forth in hushed voices, but ultimately agree. While they round-up extinguishers, flares and guns, I slide down the fire-pole and get into gear.
The sky is a dark blue-black through the window, and the demons are circling in hungry swarms, their high-pitched sound rattling the pane.
I clamber into the truck, an extinguisher sitting in the passenger seat. The others standby with their weapons. I give the signal with my gloved hand, the garage door slides open, and they take position as I hit the gas.
I'm off, veering onto dusty ground. A gunshot fires. Something lands heavily on the roof above me. I slam on the brake, propelling a demon over the windshield. Then I'm outside, extinguisher-pin pulled, searching for the bottle in a haze of sulphurous red smoke—there it is, footsteps away.
Heat blasts the back of my suit, fire licks my arms. I swivel round and squeeze cold gas at the attacking demon, and it jerks back, choking, and drops. More gunshots. I've got Cassie's medicine, but when I look up, the fire hall is crawling with demons, alight with the devil's fiery fingers.
Six ghosts stare out the blazing windows at me.
I retreat to the truck, race down the empty road to nowhere, and pray for a miracle.
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